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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

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Causing Change with
Lies My Teacher Told Me

Use Lies My Teacher Told Me to Promote Better History

  • K-12 students have read the book and then asked so many questions of their teachers and pointed out so many mistakes in their textbooks that their teachers have been forced to get their own copy in self-defense.
  • Some K-12 students have given the book to their teachers at Christmas or at the end of the school year. Some say, “You’ll really like this book, Ms. Jones!” Some say, “Why didn’t you ever teach us any of this stuff, Ms. Jones?”
  • A reader bought 50 copies and put one in every barbershop in a Black neighborhood in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
  • Make sure middle schools in your district have copies of Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus in their school libraries. Then call the book to the attention of whoever teaches U.S. history or social studies in September, so they might use it around Columbus Day.
  • Many school districts require all teachers of U.S. history, social studies, and civics to read Lies My Teacher Told Me. Does yours? If not, suggest it or Teaching What Really Happened.
  • Does your district participate in National History Day (particularly the exhibit and website contests)? If not, suggest doing so. 
  • Your own idea, better than ours! And … let us know about it. Email publichistorysites@gmail.com.

Talk with him about your community and what issues they need to think more about. Sometimes an outside speaker can provide the spark you need.

Change The Calendar To Promote Better History

  • Even before Lies My Teacher Told Me came out, Loewen was questioning the ideology that underlies and is reinforced by Thanksgiving.
  • Especially for teachers, Loewen wrote a one-page essay on how Thanksgiving makes us ethnocentric.
  • To make Loewen’s analysis of Thanksgiving in Lies My Teacher Told Me more accessible, it appeared here.
  • The artist behind “Blue Corn Comics” shows some of the problems with Thanksgiving.
  • Maya Salam at The New York Times relied on James W. Loewen and Plimoth Plantation for her major article on Thanksgiving.
  • Citizens in some communities have lobbied their town or state to change “Columbus Day” to “Native American Day” or “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Some have pushed school districts to make this change. Here is an example from a small town in California: “Darrell Berkheimer: When will America really be discovered?”
  • If you are a teacher, help your students create a one page (two-sided) “Fact Sheet On Thanksgiving” to give to every student the day before Thanksgiving break. Don’t come out “against” the holiday; merely invite people to consider additional information about it. This article, based on Chapter 3 of Lies My Teacher Told Me, might help you.
  • If you are a teacher, help your students create a one page (two-sided) “Fact Sheet On Syncretism” to give to every student the day before Christmas/New Years break. Don’t come out “against” these holidays; instead, use Christmas as an example of syncretism and invite readers to consider additional examples, like democracy; Italian, Chinese, and other cuisines; jazz; etc.